Marketing for the 2018 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium held in Madison Nov. 7-8 billed the event as “THE place to find angel and venture capital.” And the event’s program delivered multiple opportunities for company founders to connect with funding sources, from company pitches and “how-to” breakout sessions to a service provider expo and general networking time. The message to attendees throughout the symposium was that when it comes to raising capital for their startups, entrepreneurs need to expand their skill set.

Investors do not expect company founders to know beforehand the technicalities of venture deals. In fact, helping to educate entrepreneurs is one of the value-added services investors offer. “Our investment is only successful if the company is successful,” observes Abby Taubner, managing director of gener8tor’s gBETAaccelerator program. However, angel and venture investors will expect a startup to have achieved certain milestones before they will invest in the company, and their investments come with conditions.

Craig Schedler with Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures stresses the importance of product-market fit in his company’s investment decisions. Are customers using your product, and do they like it? Taubner places a premium on the team behind a startup seeking capital. “For companies that don’t meet all of our criteria, we focus primarily on the team, even more so than the idea.”

A word used by multiple breakout session panelists when describing what they look for in an investment opportunity was “traction.” Traction doesn’t necessarily mean having customers or revenue; rather, it refers to where a startup founder is in his or her journey. “Do you see a path to scalability from where you are?” asks Schedler. Tauber notes that prior investment in any form can also serve as a differentiator, as it shows that others are committed to the project. Lorrie Heinemann from Madison Development Corporation. said, “We like to see companies come in with a really good business plan,” and encouraged entrepreneurs to take advantage of the business development programs offered by gener8tor, the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Owning and controlling the intellectual property behind a product is another factor that helps draw investment. Read the full post here.